Dr. Tererai Trent is one of today’s most internationally recognized voices for quality education and women’s empowerment. Distinguished as Oprah Winfrey’s “All-Time Favorite Guest,” Tererai is a scholar, humanitarian, motivational speaker, educator, author, and founder of Tererai Trent International.
A Remarkable Story
Gifted with natural charisma that inspires people from all walks of life, Dr. Trent’s compelling story motivates people to fight for their own dreams, as well as the dreams of others. Dr. Trent’s new picture book, The Girl Who Buried Her Dreams in a Can (Viking Books), is based on her story of perseverance.
Rooted in humble beginnings, Tererai grew up in a cattle-herding family in rural Zimbabwe, in a country known as Rhodesia under colonial rule, where cultural practices and a war that liberated her country charted the course of her life. Due to traditional women’s roles and cultural norms, Tererai did not have the opportunity to go to school. Undeterred, she still dreamed of an education and determinedly taught herself to read and write from her brother’s schoolbooks. Despite being married young and having three children by the time she was eighteen, she never lost sight of her dreams.
As a young mother without a high school diploma, Tererai met a woman who would profoundly impact her life: Jo Luck, president and CEO of Heifer International. She told Tererai, “If you believe in your dreams, they are achievable.” With this inspiration and her own mother’s encouragement, Tererai wrote down her dreams of going to America for higher education, sealed them in a tin can, and buried them under a rock, ultimately redesigning the blueprint of her life.
Dr. Trent could not have imagined that her steadfast determination, hard work and belief in her dreams would eventually earn her multiple degrees, and a prominent global platform with world leaders and international businesses and audiences where she advocates for universal access to quality education.
A two-time guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Tererai was named by Oprah as her “All-Time Favorite Guest” and received a $1.5 million donation to rebuild her childhood elementary school in recognition of her tenacity and never-give-up attitude. With the firm belief that education is the pathway out of poverty and a desire to give back to her community, Dr. Trent founded Tererai Trent International.
Through strategic partnerships with Oprah Winfrey and Save the Children, Dr. Trent’s mission to provide universal access to quality education while also empowering rural communities is now being realized. Eleven schools are being built in Zimbabwe and education has been improved for over 5,000 children so far. And this is only the beginning.
Currently an adjunct professor in Monitoring & Evaluation in Global Health at Drexel University, School of Public Health, Dr. Trent is a senior consultant with more than 18 years of international experience in program and policy evaluation, and has worked on five continents for major humanitarian organizations. As a fellow at the Center of AIDS Prevention Studies (CAPS) at UC San Francisco, Dr. Trent conducted research on HIV prevention in Sub Saharan Africa with a special focus on women and girls.
Today, Dr. Trent is invited to speak all over the world, to share her remarkable story and the valuable lessons she has learned along the way. She was a keynote speaker at the UN Global Compact Leaders Summit where she used her growing voice to appeal to international businesses to invest in equal access to quality education. Leading the global charge in the fight for quality education for all children and women’s rights, Dr. Trent has become a symbol of hope for everyone, and living proof that anything is possible. Her favorite motto is “Tinogona,” meaning, “It is achievable!”
Degrees & Awards
- PhD Interdisciplinary Evaluation (Program/Policy) College of Public Health, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan
- MPH Epidemiology Concentration University of Berkeley, California
- MSc Plant Pathology (Agriculture) Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma
- BSc Agricultural Education Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma
Honorary Degrees / Honoris Causa
- Honorary Doctorate of Science, University of Massachusetts, Boston MA (April 2013)
- Honorary Doctorate in Women & Gender Development, Women’s University in Africa, Zimbabwe (Dec 2013)
- Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK (May 2014)
- Honorary Doctorate of Science, Loyola University Chicago, IL (May 2014)
- World Vision International Hope Award
- Oklahoma State University-Distinguished Alumna Award
- Oklahoma State University-2012 Graduate of Distinction in Agricultural Leadership
- Kern University Humanitarian Award
- 2015: Author of the picture book The Girl Who Buried Her Dreams in a Can (Viking Books) with illustrations by Jan Spivey Gilchrist
- 2013-Present: Adjunct Faculty, Monitoring and Evaluation in Global Health at Drexel University
- 2013: Named one of 26 Women in the Power List of O, the Oprah Magazine SA
- 2013: Masters in Public Health (Epidemiology) from University of California, Berkeley
- 2011: Oprah Winfrey named Dr. Trent her “All-time Favorite Guest” at the finale of her syndicated show
- 2011-2013: Fellow at University of California, San Francisco, Dr. Trent conducted research on HIV prevention in Sub Saharan Africa with a special focus on women and girls.
- 2009-Present: Founder of Tinogona Foundation, now known as Tererai Trent International
- 2009: Tererai’s story featured in NY Times bestseller, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, by Nicholas Kristof & Sheryl WuDunn
- 2009: Doctorate in Interdisciplinary Evaluation from Western Michigan University
- 2002-2010: Deputy Director, Monitoring & Evaluation at Heifer International
- 2002: Bachelors in Agricultural Education and Masters in Plant Pathology from Oklahoma State University
- “Tererai” means “listen” in the Shona language in Zimbabwe. Her full first name is actually “Tereraishokoramwari” which means, “We listen to the word of the spirit.”
- Tererai’s mother’s name “Shamiso” means “One who holds miracles.”